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LostInParadise's avatar

For those who have seen the movie, The Reader, what do you make of Kate Winslet's character (warning, spoilers)?

Asked by LostInParadise (24608points) April 23rd, 2009

First off let me say that it was an extraordinary performance that made the character seem credible. But I wonder if there are such people. She seems to be completely non-reflective, an example of the unexamined life that Socrates warned against. Do you think such people exist, that she could participate in killings and simply not have anything register? And how can she be that way and also have such an appreciation of literature?

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2 Answers

is_that_it's avatar

Good question.
There wre some serious gaps. Why are we to suppose she had a weird sexuality. It is not normal for conservative women to engage sexually with a boy they just met. Are we to think she was traumatized earlier in life? Was she illiterate? if yes why?

Jack79's avatar

I got confused at first and thought you were referring to Revolutionary Road (also an interesting performance by Winslett).

Trying to understand the way people behave in such extraordinary circumstances is always hard. Even if we accept that Hitler was a madman, we have to suppose that all of his followers were mad too, or else how could they have committed all those crimes? So it’s not just Schmitz or whatever her name is in the film.

There were millions of everyday, normal Germans who turned to the monsters we see charicatured in WWII movies. Just like the acverage American youth in Vietnam, Kossovo, Iraq…the list goes on. Human beings are intrinsically capable of the greatest wonders. And the most hideous crimes. Often simultaneously.

If Winslett’s character had been literate, it would not have made any difference. My uncle (a musician) was telling me about an Austrian trooper that kept him prisoner and made him play the violin. The Austrian always treated him nicely, because of the music, but was just as evil and sadistic as his notorious compatriot when it came to other prisoners.

So I find nothing inconsistent with the main character in “The Reader”. She was just human, as human as they get. And honest, in that she didn’t even try to hide what she did, or understood why it was wrong. The end of WWII saw a huge cover-up, where the winners pretended they had always been pro-Jewish and had never harmed the Jews themselves, and the losers were divided into the BRD, who had to accept full responsibility and pay the price, and DDR, who pretended the war had happened on a different planet altogether. Even today we keep referring to “the Germans”, often forgetting that their leader was an Austrian, and that they had allies from Japan and Italy, and that the rest of the world was no better at the time.

SPOILER
What I did find weird was the boy’s attitude. Even if he were too scared to help her in the trial, I’d expect him to support her more afterwards. Especially when she came out. This was not consistent with his feelings for her, and his overall behaviour (note that he did not really condemn her). I’d have stood up for her more.

As a final note I would like to compare all this to a DDR communist friend of mine, who was a member of the Stasi, and to this day believes he did the right thing for the Party. He honestly believes Communism is a good thing, and that by uncovering traitors he was saving his country, which eventually fell into the evils of Capitalism (and the recent recession is proving him right all along). He’s the equivalent of a McArthyist persecuting communists.

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